This is part of a series I’m writing called “Pitching a VC.” If you want to see the entire outline of the series you can click here.
When I was on the other side of the table (e.g. an entrepreneur) I had a fixed view on what to send a VC or a customer in advance of a meeting. Now that I’m on the other side I’ve completely altered my view.
My initial point of view was that you send only an email (e.g. no documents) and that your email should contain a short-and-sweet description of what you do so that the VC would be aware of your business. Your email would be sent from you to a person who knows the VC and that person would in turn forward it. (see how to approach a VC if you aren’t aware of how to get access in the first place).
I initially thought that you should NEVER send your Powerpoint deck in advance. My rationale was simple: I believe that there is a certain magic in delivering presentations and leading a crowd through a storyline. I figured that sending the deck in advance took away the punch line. It meant that the guys you would be presenting to would already know all the details and it would take the punch out of the conversation.
The topic of what to send in advance is also covered in a Venture Hacks blog posting (see here) where they assert that a well placed introduction is more important than an elevator pitch (by elevator pitch they seem to mean a well crafted email) and an elevator pitch is more important than a Powerpoint deck. Since they say that you should have both an elevator pitch and a deck I won’t say they’re wrong. But as long as you are referred by someone credible and write a short email I believe the deck is more important than the email itself.
And you really must send the Powerpoint presentation in advance. As a VC I am deluged with emails and with presentations from companies. I have limited time in advance to grasp the nature of the many companies that I see each week. Most companies (75%+) send their decks in advance. When I get a short email with a deck the first thing I do is fire up the Powerpoint deck and thumb through it quickly – probably even before I’ve read every word of the email. If I agree to see the company then I usually thumb through them twice. The first time is when somebody referred you through to me (or you sent it directly) and the second is 10 minutes before you arrive.
So why is it important that I have your deck before you pitch if I’ve already agreed to see you? If you show up and I haven’t had a chance to process what your business does, think about competition, check out a few websites, look at your revenue projections, etc. then I’m doing it all in real time while you’re presenting. Sometimes I know the business area well and it’s no big deal. Other times my brain is going into overdrive trying to understand your business. If I get a chance to process things before hand then I have more time for the following:
- deep dive / more intimate questions about your business
- more time for building rapport with you because I spend less time “getting it”
- more opportunity to call a friend who works in the space and get his views before the meeting (happens on 20-30% of deals I see)
- more time for you to show me product because I need less time seeing your deck
- Sometimes I’ll ask an analyst or associate to dig a bit deeper into the business, product or competition before the meeting
So in summary it is way more impactful if you send your deck in advance.
- PLEASE do not send me Word documents. If you imagine the 1,000′s of plans we see each year it would be way too time consuming to read through each one if I had to read all your text descriptions and try to process them. Even a 3-page executive summary that most bankers like is a waste. Most VC’s I know like to quickly flip through a visual deck to get the general idea of what you do. If it interests the VC they’ll read through a second time in more detail – probably spending a lot of time on the financial projection slides. I think most people are visual thinkers by nature so no matter how much people hate Powerpoint – it has its place.
- I love technology products – at my core I’m a tinkerer. So I love to play around with your cool new technology. But don’t assume that I’ll come to your website. I’m approached by many people after conferences and they always tell me, “check out my website, my URL is a,b,c.” I really don’t have time to go to every website and play with every product. I tell people to send me your deck. If I thumb through it quickly and like what I see I’ll always go check out the product or website demos, literature, videos, etc. But not before I’ve seen the deck and confirmed my interest.
Based on my last post saying that the CEO/Founder had to be the one pitching the VC I got a couple of less than pleasant responses. So before I get comments on this post telling me I’m arrogant for not going to all your websites or not wanting to read your 3-page exec summaries let me say the following – I’m just trying to inform entrepreneurs how I believe many VC’s act. If it is reality then you’re better knowing about it. I’m not trying to be a dick. In our job we have certain pressures that require us to short-hand certain decisions. Knowing this should help you.